Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead was unusual, but Flights is in another category altogether. It is an attempt to escape the boundaries of the conventional, linear novel.
It is written in snippets. Some of them are stories, some little vignettes or descriptions, some philosophical discursions, some lectures. Some of the snippets are observations from the narrator, an unnamed Polish woman who likes to be constantly traveling, often to visit museums of curiosities, particularly those that show the workings of the human body. Others are stories about people she meets on her journeys or just stories about people. Some of the threads recur in the novel; most do not.
Anchoring all this is the theme of movement. Most of the stories are about people on their way somewhere else, occasionally to another stage of being.
This novel was widely acclaimed by reviewers and won the Man International Prize. How it will strike ordinary readers is hard to guess. It’s not easy. I found parts of it interesting and other parts, particularly the lectures on travel psychology, which I doubt anyone would ever listen to, incomprehensible, as if someone were reading from a dense professional manual.